Court Jews, Printers, Book Publishing, and the Beginning of the Haskalah in the German Lands: The Life History of the Wulffian Printing Press as a Case-Study

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
Author: Gad Freudenthal
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This article presents the history of a printing press that operated at several places near Berlin during the first half of the eighteenth century, culminating in the epoch-making reprinting of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed in 1742. The press was established in Dessau in 1694 by the court Jew Moses Wulff (1661–1729), and was run by several printers, notably the convert Israel b. Abraham (fl. 1715–1752). Using the trajectory of the Wulff press as a case study, I examine the relations between scholars, patrons of learning (especially court Jews), printers, and book publishing. The inquiry will highlight the considerable role that court Jews played in shaping the Jewish bookshelf, notably by choosing which books (reprints and original) would be funded. Surprisingly perhaps, although court Jews were in continuous contact with the environing culture, they did not usually favor the printing of non-traditional Jewish works that would favor a rapprochement.